Ancient mass graves discovered in Greece

The remains of men buried in a mass grave found in an area of the Falirikon Delta in South Athens
The remains of men buried in a mass grave found in an area of the Falirikon Delta in South Athens

Archaeologists have discovered two mass graves near the Greek capital containing the skeletons of 80 men who may have been followers of ancient would-be tyrant Cylon of Athens.

Regional archaeological services director Stella Chryssoulaki laid out the theory Thursday as she unveiled the findings at the Central Archaeological Council, the custodians of Greece's ancient heritage.

Given "the high importance of these discoveries", the council is launching further investigations, the culture ministry said in a statement.

Two small vases discovered amongst the skeletons have allowed archaeologists to date the graves from between 675 and 650 BC, "a period of great political turmoil in the region", the ministry said.

The skeletons were found lined up, some on their backs and others on their stomachs. A total of 36 had their hands bound with iron.

They were discovered during excavations at an ancient cemetery on Athens' seaside outskirts, on the construction site of the new National Library of Greece and National Opera.

Archaeologists found the teeth of the men to be in good condition, indicating they were young and healthy.

This boosts the theory that they could have been followers of Cylon, a nobleman whose failed coup in the 7th century BC is detailed in the accounts of ancient historians Herodotus and Thucydides.

Cylon, a former Olympic champion, sought to rule Athens as a tyrant. But Athenians opposed the coup attempt and he and his supporters were forced to seek refuge in the Acropolis, the citadel that is today the Greek capital's biggest tourist attraction.

The conspirators eventually surrendered after winning guarantees that their lives would be spared.

But Megacles, of the powerful Alcmaeonid clan, had the men massacred—an act condemned as sacrilegious by the city authorities.

Historians say this dramatic chapter in the story of ancient Athens showed the aristocracy's resistance to the political transformation that would eventually herald in 2,500 years of Athenian democracy.


Explore further

Archaeologists unearth ancient Greek palace near Sparta

© 2016 AFP

Citation: Ancient mass graves discovered in Greece (2016, April 14) retrieved 20 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2016-04-ancient-mass-graves-greece.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
397 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Apr 15, 2016
Our author does not have mathematics skills. Greece has NOT been a democracy for the term 650 BC to 1850 AD... which is (-650) +2500 !!

Apr 15, 2016
Our author does not have mathematics skills. Greece has NOT been a democracy for the term 650 BC to 1850 AD... which is (-650) +2500 !!

You are not good in history. Athenian democracy survived up to 322 BC, and was later revived in less democratic forms. There are many forms of democracy off course. If it is a direct democracy of the people, it was in the 5th century BC, something that is different from current democratic systems. But 650BC? Read history.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more